The Astroturfing and Shillery Military-Industrial-Survelliance Complex

Anybody who has ever involved themselves with online research where there is commentary is well aware of shills, trolls and astroturfing. The challenge is that this can and does overwhelm the gems to be found. As a result, it forces one to find sanctuaries of like-minded people in somewhat safe settings, like The New Nationalist (TNN). Obviously, we don’t permit tactics like gaslighting or the tired old “I know a guy who knows a guy”-type of shillery.

Online astroturfing and shilling can be divided into several categories. Most of it is bot-driven, but there is also low-quality human engagement. On rare occasion, you may encounter a more skilled individual.

But mostly they are bots. For instance, Raw Story reported on a federal contract (PDF) from the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Florida, that solicited providers of “persona management software.” The persona business shows up frequently in usual-suspect operations. The contract description requires software for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500.

When you encounter these personas online, they seem zombie like and rather addled. Sometimes when attacked or gaslighted by one, I will check other comments they make on other topics and find it’s a stream of bot consciousness about nothing of substance.

When they engage, it’s usually snarky, low-investment opining with liberal cut-and-paste use of the word “crazy” and the word “conspiracy.” Poor bot-like language syntax and failure to use the plural form of the word “theorist” is another tell. In the following example, a junior-high educated human would break up the first sentence into three. And how is it that “someone” who can’t grammatically construct a sentence qualify to opine on my title composition? This type of generic bot-driven commentary combined down-vote brigades and bans is almost exclusively what TNN is subjected to when sharing articles on Reddit, which infested with it.


This is why people never will believe conspiracy theorist just look at your title it makes sense to me but to normal people? Can you really blame them for thinking conspiracies are for crazies

clovize —  aka human versus bot

You are gaslighting. So we live in an inverted world, where those who question the QAnon Kool-Aid psyops are the crazies? What’s to say? And how is it that “someone” who runs three sentences together as one and can’t get the plural right on the word “theorist” qualifies as an expert on article title composition?

Reddit’s “Conspiracy” forum (r/conspiracy) is one of the ultimate battleground for this. There are enough gems and material coming from this subreddit that I spend time there. And I do get sucked in on the strategies and tactics of astroturfing, trolls and shills. It strikes me as quite organized, and I am the subject of some attention. One of the tactics of real shills is that they quickly reveal they have no investment in the subject matter. Usually when attacking TNN material, you will discover they didn’t even read the article — and will admit as much, saying “it’s not worth my time.” That’s cut-and-paste banter from the shill/troll handbook.

An article in The Guardian reveals what is likely transpiring:

The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age.

The 77th Brigade, to be based in Hermitage, near Newbury, in Berkshire, will be about 1,500-strong and formed of units drawn from across the army.

The brigade will be responsible for what is described as non-lethal warfare. Both the Israeli and US army already engage heavily in psychological operations. Against a background of 24-hour news, smartphones and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, the force will attempt to control the narrative.

Image result for 77th brigade

Then there’s MADCOM, used by companies, politicians, nations, academics, lobbyist groups and organizations:

Machine-driven communications tools are a reality now and artificial intelligence enabled tools will soon dominate the online information space. This paradigm shift isn’t limited to artificial personal assistants like Siri and recreational chatbots like Xiaoice. It refers to machine-driven communication overwhelming Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Match, Reddit, chat rooms, news site comment sections, and the rest of the social web.

All of it will be dominated by machines talking. This machine communication will be nearly indistinguishable from human communication. The machines will be trying to persuade, sell, deceive, intimidate, manipulate, and cajole you into whatever response they’re programmed to elicit. They will be unbelievably effective.

Then we learned that millions more in taxpayer dollars have been spent on DARPA psyop projects. This one utilizes celebrities for propaganda purpose.

The activities of users of Twitter and other social media services were recorded and analysed as part of a major project funded by the US military, in a program that covers ground similar to Facebook’s controversial experiment into how to control emotions by manipulating news feeds.

Research funded directly or indirectly by the US Department of Defense’s military research department, known as Darpa, has involved users of some of the internet’s largest destinations, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Kickstarter, for studies of social connections and how messages spread.

While some elements of the multi-million dollar project might raise a wry smile – research has included analysis of the tweets of celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, in an attempt to understand influence on Twitter – others have resulted in the buildup of massive datasets of tweets and additional types social media posts.

NodeXL – Twitter DARPA network graph. SOURCE: Marc Smith/Flickr

This has gotten so pervasive and is such big business in the military-industrial-surveillance state that the City of Boston police department blew $1.4 million on it.

Several civil rights groups and advocacy organizations are asking Boston officials to cease plans to spend $1.4 million on software that will allow police to monitor people’s social media activity.

The Times of Israel reports that Israel spends considerable resources building online armies of “activists” (aka shills). Also, see “Foreign Intel Agents Launch New Covert Propaganda War Against Americans on US Soil.”

The plan aims to harness 550 bilingual students drawn from the student pool at the country’s seven universities, who will target their efforts abroad.

The Obama administration selected the infamous (((Cass Sunstein))) for its NSA panel. Sunstein proposed “government agents” or “their allies” — whatever the later means (Zionist contractors?) — to infiltrate conspiracy theorist groups.

The Obama administration is reportedly proposing Cass Sunstein as a member of a panel to review the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency (NSA), among other former White House and intelligence staffers. Sunstein was the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs until last year, when he returned to teaching at Harvard Law School.

As one of our intrepid commenters pointed out yesterday, while at Harvard in 2008, Sunstein co-authored a working paper that suggests government agents or their allies “cognitively infiltrate” conspiracy theorist groups by joining “chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups” and influencing the conversation.

Sunstein’s paper defined a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”

Then were learn about the Israeli fake persona PSY Group:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked about flows of money into the Cyprus bank account of a company that specialized in social-media manipulation and whose founder reportedly met with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry is drawing attention to PSY Group, an Israeli firm that pitched its services to super-PACs and other entities during the 2016 election. Those services included infiltrating target audiences with elaborately crafted social-media personas and spreading misleading information through websites meant to mimic news portals, according to interviews and PSY Group documents seen by Bloomberg News.
Image result for psy group
Glenn Greenwald reported on the notorious GCHQ:

What appears to be an internal Wiki page detailing the cyber-weaponry used by the British spy agency GCHQ was published today by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept. The page, taken from the documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, lists dozens of tools used by GCHQ to target individuals and their computing devices, spread disinformation posing as others, and “shape” opinion and information available online.

The page had been maintained by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) Covert Internet Technical Development team, but it fell out of use by the time Snowden copied it. Greenwald and NBC previously reported on JTRIG’s “dirty tricks” tactics for psychological operations and information warfare, and the new documents provide a hint at how those tactics were executed. GCHQ’s capabilities included tools for manipulating social media, spoofing communications from individuals and groups, and warping the perception of content online through manipulation of polls and web pages’ traffic and search rankings.

Dozens of other examples are listed here.

The post The Astroturfing and Shillery Military-Industrial-Survelliance Complex appeared first on The New Nationalist.

For Optimal Health, Make Sure You Have a Vitamin D Level of 60 ng/mL

By Dr. Mercola

Thousands of studies have been done on the health effects of vitamin D, and research shows it is involved in the biology of all the cells and tissues in your body, including your immune cells. Your cells actually need the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside. This is one of the reasons why vitamin D has the ability to impact such a wide variety of health problems — from fetal development to cancer.

Conventional Vitamin D Recommendations Are Too Low for Disease Prevention

Unfortunately, despite being easy and inexpensive to address, vitamin D deficiency is epidemic around the world. A simple mathematical error may also deter many Americans and Canadians from optimizing their vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a mere 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day for adults.

As pointed out in a 2014 paper,1 the IOM actually underestimates the need by a factor of 10 due to a simple mathematical error, which has never been corrected. Moreover, the goal of this recommendation is merely bone health, not optimal health and chronic disease prevention.

Similarly, while the American Medical Association considers 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) sufficient, a compelling body of research suggests 40 ng/mL is at the low end of sufficiency,2 with 30 ng/mL being the rock bottom for the prevention of common diseases such as heart disease,3 diabetes,4 lung disease5 and more.6,7,8 An ideal level for health and disease prevention is actually between 60 and 80 ng/mL.9

Moreover, according to a study in Anticancer Research,10 it would require 9,600 IUs of vitamin D per day to get a majority (97.5 percent) of the population to reach 40 ng/mL — a far cry from 600 IUs.

That said, GrassrootsHealth — through its D*Action study — has found a sixfold variability in achieved serum levels,11 meaning one person taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D per day may achieve a level of just 20 ng/mL while another is able to reach a level of 120 ng/mL taking the same amount. This is why it’s so important to get your vitamin D level tested at regular intervals.

According to data published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,12 75 percent of American adults and teens are deficient in vitamin D, based on a sufficiency level of 30 ng/mL. If the sufficiency cutoff were to be moved to 40 or 60 ng/mL, deficiency rates in the U.S. would likely be in the high 90 percent bracket. Even with a sufficiency level of 30 ng/mL, 97 percent of African-Americans and 90 percent of Mexican-Americans are deficient in this crucial nutrient.

Most People Are Vitamin D Deficient, Placing Them at Increased Risk of Cancer

Unfortunately, while many health professionals recommend total sun avoidance to avoid skin cancer, this strategy raises your risk of internal cancers instead. Hardly a fair trade! Numerous studies have shown people with higher vitamin D levels have a far lower risk of a wide variety of internal cancers.

Generally speaking, research has shown that once you reach a serum vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL, your risk for cancer diminishes by 67 percent, compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less.13,14,15,16,17,18,19 Research shows most cancers occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL, and the optimal level for cancer protection has been identified as being between 40 and 60 ng/mL.

Vitamin D also increases your chances of surviving cancer if you do get it,20,21 and this includes melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.22,23 There’s also evidence it can improve treatment outcomes. For example, adding vitamin D to the conventional treatment for pancreatic cancer was found to boost the effectiveness of the treatment.24

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Colorectal Cancer

Most recently, researchers found an inverse relationship between vitamin D and colorectal cancer,25 which is the third leading cancer killer in the U.S. The vitamin D levels of 5,700 colorectal cancer patients in the U.S., Europe and Asia were compared to 7,100 cancer-free controls. Here, a vitamin D level of 12 ng/mL (30 nmol/L) or less was considered a deficiency state; 20 to 25 ng/mL (50 to 62.5 nmol/L) was considered sufficient for bone health. Far higher levels were associated with cancer protection:

  • People with a vitamin D level of 12 ng/mL or below had a 31 percent higher risk for colorectal cancer compared to those with levels between 20 and 25 ng/mL
  • Those with levels between 30 and 35 ng/mL had a 19 percent reduced risk for colorectal cancer
  • Those with levels between 35 and 40 ng/mL had a 27 percent reduced risk
  • For each 10 ng/mL increase in circulating vitamin D, the risk for colorectal cancer was reduced by 19 percent in women and 7 percent in men

Coauthor Marji L. McCullough commented on the results, saying,26 “This study adds new information that agencies can use when reviewing evidence for vitamin D guidance and suggests that the concentrations recommended for bone health may be lower than would be optimal for colorectal cancer prevention.” Another study27 published in 2015 found women with vitamin D concentrations of at least 30 ng/mL had a 55 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who had a blood level below 18 ng/mL.

Vitamin D Protects Against Breast Cancer

Several studies also show that higher vitamin D levels are protective against breast cancer specifically, which is a serious concern for most women. For example, in a 2005 study,28 women with vitamin D levels above 60 ng/mL had an 83 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those below 20 ng/mL.

More recently, a pooled analysis of two randomized trials and a prospective cohort study again confirmed the link between vitamin D and breast cancer risk.29 The objective was to assess whether there are any benefits to having a vitamin D level above 40 ng/mL, as most studies do not venture into these higher levels. Indeed, mirroring the 2005 findings, women with vitamin D levels at or above 60 ng/mL had an 82 percent lower incidence rate of breast cancer than those with levels of 20 ng/mL or less.

Pooled data was analyzed in three different ways. First, incidence rates were compared based on vitamin D levels ranging from 20 to 60 ng/mL. Next, statistical analysis using Kaplan-Meier plots were done. Third, multivariate Cox regression was used to examine the association between various vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk. According to the authors:

“Results were similar for the three analyses. First, comparing incidence rates, there was an 82 percent lower incidence rate of breast cancer for women with 25(OH)D concentrations ?60 vs <20 ng/mL.

Second, Kaplan-Meier curves for concentrations of <20, 20–39, 40–59 and ?60 ng/mL were significantly different, with the highest proportion breast cancer-free in the ?60 ng/ml group (99.3 percent) and the lowest proportion breast cancer-free in the <20 ng/ml group (96.8 percent). The proportion with breast cancer was 78 percent lower for ?60 vs <20 ng/mL.

Third, multivariate Cox regression revealed that women with 25(OH)D concentrations ?60 ng/ml had an 80 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women with concentrations <20 ng/mL, adjusting for age, BMI, smoking status, calcium supplement intake, and study of origin … Higher 25(OH)D concentrations were associated with a dose-response decrease in breast cancer risk with concentrations ?60 ng/mL being most protective.”

breast cancer

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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Lung Disease

Other recent research30 links vitamin D deficiency to interstitial lung disease (ILD). Here, the vitamin D levels of more than 6,300 individuals of various ethnicities were assessed to evaluate the connection between vitamin D and ILD prevalence and progression. Thirty-three percent had a vitamin D level at or above 30 ng/mL; 35 percent had levels between 20 and 30 ng/mL and 32 percent were deficient, having a level at or below 20 ng/mL. According to the authors:

“Compared with those with replete concentrations [at or above 30 ng/mL], participants with 25(OH)D deficiency had greater adjusted high-attenuation areas volume at baseline and increased progression over a median of 4.3 years of follow-up. 25(OH)D deficiency was also associated with increased prevalence of interstitial lung abnormalities 10 years later …

Vitamin D deficiency is independently associated with subclinical ILD and its progression, based on both increased high-attenuation areas and interstitial lung abnormalities, in a community-based population. Further studies are needed to examine whether vitamin D repletion can prevent ILD or slow its progression.”

Even when taking other factors into account, such as age, smoking, obesity and inactivity, the results held true. Dr. Erin Michos, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the study told Medical News Today:31

“We knew that the activated vitamin D hormone has anti-inflammatory properties and helps regulate the immune system, which goes awry in ILD. There was also evidence in the literature that vitamin D plays a role in obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], and we now found that the association exists with this scarring form of lung disease too.

We might now consider adding vitamin D deficiency to the list of factors involved in disease processes, along with the known ILD risk factors such as environmental toxins and smoking.”

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Pregnancy Loss

Vitamin D is perhaps particularly crucial for pregnant women, to protect both their health and the health of their babies. Interestingly, recent research32,33 suggests vitamin D plays an important role in preventing an adverse immune response against the fetus that might cause her body to reject it as foreign tissue.

As noted by the authors, “It stands to reason that an immunocompetent mother would muster an immune response against the fetus. Nevertheless, in reality this does not occur due to various fetomaternal interactions which induce tolerance … Recently, it has come to light that vitamin D may play an integral part in the induction and regulation of this critical immune tolerance process.” What they discovered is that recurrent pregnancy loss, which affects about 1 percent of couples trying to conceive, is linked to low vitamin D.

In short, vitamin D promotes a favorable environment for pregnancy, in part by regulating immune cell differentiation and the excretion of inflammatory cytokines. According to the authors, “It seems that vitamin D deficiency sways the balance toward a worse outcome and may play a part in recurrent pregnancy loss.” Vitamin D also performs many other important functions during pregnancy, and has been shown to dramatically lower a woman’s risk for complications and premature birth.

Vitamin D Significantly Lowers Risk of Preterm Birth

According to findings by Grassrootshealth, there’s a clear and definitive correlation between vitamin D levels and time of gestation — up to 40 ng/mL, where the impact plateaus.34 Overall, evidence shows pregnant women with a vitamin D level between 40 and 60 ng/mL have 46 percent lower preterm birth rate than the general population, while those with a vitamin D level at or above 40 ng/mL by their third trimester have a 59 percent lower risk for premature birth compared to those with levels below 20 ng/mL.35

Among non-Caucasian women (among whom vitamin D deficiency is far more common) the reduction in risk is even more significant. In this group, those who achieved a vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL by their second vitamin D test had a 78 percent lower preterm birth rate — reducing the preterm birth rate from 18 percent to 4 percent! To ignore this astounding improvement in preterm birth rate among African-American would be foolhardy in the extreme.

preterm birth rate for women
preterm birth rate non-white women

As noted in a 2015 press release announcing the findings:36

“The March of Dimes estimates that the annual cost of preterm births in the United States as $12 billion (for 455,918 children). If approximately 50 percent of preterm births could be prevented in the general population, as this analysis suggests is possible, there could be $6 billion available for other services, and more than 225,000 children and families spared this trauma.”

What’s more, further analysis revealed that women with a history of preterm birth can lower their risk by a whopping 80 percent by raising their vitamin D level above 40 ng/mL.37 Tragically, despite the overwhelming evidence38 supporting the use of vitamin D to dramatically improve pregnancy outcomes and lower preterm birth rates, health authorities still make no mention of it whatsoever.

On March 27, 2018, in an effort to break the silence, the Organic & Natural Health Association submitted a health claim petition for vitamin D and preterm birth to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,39 the key message being that vitamin D supplementation “directly impacts health outcomes and is changing the standards of care, in this case, for pregnant women and a generation of children.”

Canadian Study Finds Tanning Bed Can Help Optimize Vitamin D Level

The best way to optimize your vitamin D is through regular but sensible sun exposure, making sure to measure your level twice a year. That said, it can be difficult for many to achieve ideal levels through sun exposure, especially in the wintertime. In these cases, oral vitamin D3 (not D2) can be used, although you will forgo many other health benefits associated with sun exposure. Grassroots Health believes another alternative could be using a tanning bed. Research40 supports this: As reported by GrassrootsHealth:41

“Sunbeds with a UVB component similar to solar summer sunshine may provide an effective alternate vitamin D source during winter months, according to a new Canadian study just published in the Journal Dermato-Endocrinology. People who use tanning salons, specifically sunbeds that have UVB during the winter reach physiological blood levels (>100 nmol/L) [40 ng/mL] of vitamin D, the study reported.

It found that participants who used typical sunbeds emitting UVB rays in the range equivalent to outdoor summer sunshine increased their vitamin D blood levels on average by 42 nmol/L [16.8 ng/mL]. This was achieved using standard tanning exposure schedules on salon sunbeds.”

The tanning beds used in this study — found in regular tanning salons across Canada — were equipped with 100 to 160 watt fluorescent bulbs emitting 2.2 to 4.2 percent UVB light. Lead author Samantha Kimball, Ph.D., research director at Pure North S’Energy Foundation in Calgary commented on the results, saying:

“Sunbeds enable exposure to nearly 100 percent of skin in a controlled manner which amplifies their effectiveness for vitamin D production. We found that you can effectively raise your vitamin D levels into the desired range without burning and following Health Canada’s recommendations.”

Nasty Skin-Burning Plant Is Spreading

By Dr. Mercola

Most poisonous plants are invasive weeds, including poison ivy, oak, sumac and the plant recently discovered in Virginia — giant hogweed. Giant hogweed is on the federal noxious weed list, which means it is unlawful to propagate, sell or transport it across state lines as it is invasive and often crowds out native plants.

While poison ivy, oak and sumac often are hidden among other low-lying bushes or found growing up trees, giant hogweed, which can reach a height of 10 to 15 feet, is a striking and dangerous plant. While each of these poisonous garden plants can cause varying degrees of skin rashes and burns, giant hogweed sometimes causes long-lasting or permanent damage.1

Poison ivy, oak and sumac are closely related and often found in similar environments. All three grow throughout the U.S., except Hawaii, Alaska and parts of Nevada.2 While irritating and uncomfortable, the rashes are not usually dangerous unless the oil is aerosolized from burning the plants. Inhaling fumes may trigger an allergic reaction in your lungs. However, there are natural ways to rid your yard of these invasive plants without resorting to chemicals or fire.

The rashes from poison ivy, oak and sumac can be unbearably itchy if left untreated. While your primary care physician may want to prescribe a corticosteroid, there are much safer treatments you may begin at home without multiple side effects.

Although steroids are commonly prescribed for a number of different conditions, the medications are linked with significant side effects, including fluid retention, elevated blood pressure, osteoporosis, mood swings and an increased risk of infection.3 In other words, these are drugs you likely want to steer clear of as much as possible.

Learning to recognize each of these invasive plants (as prevention is the best medicine), ways of preventing rashes and burns from poison plants even after you’ve been exposed, and the treatments you can use at home to alleviate the symptoms will help you enjoy more of the outdoors.

History of the Hogweed

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a member of the carrot and parsley family of plants and native to Caucasus Mountains on the border of Europe and Asia.4 The plant was originally introduced to Great Britain as an ornamental due its unique size and impressive flowers. Originally named after the mythical god Hercules, it was then imported to the U.S. and Canada as an ornamental plant in Victorian gardens.5

The size of the flowers made the plant a favorite with beekeepers as the plant provided a substantial amount of nectar. Presently, the plant is established in New England and along the Mid-Atlantic and the Pacific Northwest6 regions of the U.S. The plants can be found growing along streams and rivers, forests and roadsides.7 It prefers abundant light and moist soil, and the size of the plant ensures those growing under it are choked out.

A powder was made from the dried seeds and used as a spice in Iranian cooking.8 As with so many invasive plants, the giant hogweed escaped cultivation. In addition to being on the federal noxious weed list, several states have also listed the plant on a list of prohibited plant species. Hogweed is a perennial, living three to five years, with tuberous root stalks. It survives between growing seasons, enduring dormancy during the winter months.9

Large white flowers form at the top of the plant and are flat-topped and umbrella-shaped, often measuring 2.5 feet across. Horticulturist describe the flowers as resembling “Queen Anne’s Lace on steroids.”10 The plant produces seeds in the late summer that may remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years.

Toxins of Hogweed Increase Sun Sensitivity

While striking and producing beautiful flowers, the plant also produces a toxic sap, which when in contact with the skin and combined with sunlight, can cause severe irritation, burns and blisters. This phytophotodermatitis is caused by photosensitizing furanocoumarins11 making the skin photosensitive and unable to protect itself from sunlight. This may cause third-degree burns, affecting layers of the skin down to the dermis.

The plant’s watery sap contains furanocoumarins, a psoralen. The photo toxic effects occur when psoralen binds to nuclear DNA under the influence of ultraviolet radiation and causes the death of affected cells.12 This irritation may worsen when the skin is moist from sweat or there is dew on the plant.

The reaction may start as quickly as 15 minutes after exposure, although it often takes 48 hours for blisters to form. These blisters may become pigmented and scab over, taking weeks to heal. The scars left from hogweed burns can last for months or even years. Once exposed to hogweed sap, the skin can remain photosensitive for several years.13 If the sap gets into your eyes it can cause photosensitivity of the cornea and result in temporary or permanent blindness.

Identifying Giant Hogweed

As impressive as this plant may be, it is often mistaken for other invasive weeds and plants in the carrot and parsnip family. You can see pictures of the impressive leaf span and flowers of the giant hogweed in this short video. The plant may grow up to 15 feet in height with stems 1 to 3 inches in diameter. The stem of the giant hogweed has inconsistently placed dark purplish spots. The stems may also be covered with hairs but not as prominently as on the leaf stalks. Some of the plants confused with the giant hogweed include:14

  • Cow parsnip: The cow parsnip resembles giant hogweed closely, but grows only 5 to 8 feet tall.
  • Angelica: This plant may be differentiated by smooth, green to purple stems without bristles and nodules. The flowers seldom reach 1 foot across and the plant is much shorter, gaining no more than 8 feet in height.
  • Poison hemlock: This plant is a non-native biennial, also shorter than giant hogweed and growing only up to 9 feet in height. Although the stem has purple blotches, the stems and stalks are smooth and hairless.
  • Wild parsnip: This plant also causes phytophotodermatitis but without the severity of giant hogweed. It seldom gets taller than 5 feet and the stems have vertical grooves running along the length.

For a positive identification, take pictures of the entire plant and send them to your local county Extension office.15 They can help identify the plant and give assistance with removal and control in the following years. It’s important you take strong precautions before attempting to remove this plant and that you always wear appropriate protective gear.

Identify Common Garden Poison Plants and Prevent Rashes

There’s a reason it’s difficult to identify poison plants in your garden — they can vary based on the season, species and area of the country they are growing in. As shown in the short video, poison ivy and oak can have a different appearance in different locations, and can grow as a vine or shrub. Poison ivy, oak and sumac are also found in different areas of distribution throughout the United States and Canada.16 

While the Eastern species of poison ivy is located mainly on the East Coast and Central Midwest area of the U.S., Western poison ivy is found throughout the West, Canada, East Coast and much of the Midwest. Pacific poison oak is found along the western U.S. and the West Coast of Canada, while Atlantic poison oak is found along the southern east coast and Southern States of the U.S. Poison sumac is found predominantly on the east coast Canada, the U.S. and Texas.

Avoiding these plants is the best way of preventing the rash, blisters and itching that accompanies exposure to the oil coating the poison leaves. The old saying, “Leaves of three, let it be,”17 is a good rule of thumb for identifying poison ivy. The leaf shape, color and variety may change, but the arrangement doesn’t. Look for stems with a large leaf on the end and two slightly smaller ones flanking it.

Poison oak leaves also cluster in sets of three, with the edges of solid green leaves white, reminiscent of an oak tree.18 However, poison sumac has leaf stems containing seven to 13 leaflets with one growing from the end of the stem and the others paired opposite each other. Leaves may have black or brownish black spots filled with urushiol, the oil triggering the contact dermatitis, rash and blistering.

Recognizing the plant may help prevent exposure, but sometimes it happens anyway. Retired biomedical scientist Jim Brauker explains that by understanding the science of how urushiol oil affects your skin, it may be possible to get poison ivy on your skin, be allergic and still not get a rash.19 He explains a method not requiring any special products or treatments, but instead using friction and consistency.

Since the urushiol takes a couple hours to soak into the skin, by washing it off the exposed parts of your body, you can avoid a serious poison ivy rash altogether. However, getting the oil off isn’t as easy as it sounds. The molecule, similar to engine grease, sticks to your skin and spreads rapidly.20

Brauker recommends scrubbing thoroughly with flannel or a washcloth, rinsing and repeating three times to get rid of all of the oil. This process does not apply to urushiol coming in contact with sensitive skin under the eye or in cuts. In these cases, the urushiol is likely to penetrate much more quickly.

Symptoms of Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Exposure

In most cases, the symptoms associated with poison plants, such as ivy, oak or sumac, include a red rash within a few days of contact, swelling, itching and streaking or weeping blisters.21 The fluid from these blisters is not contagious. Instead it is the urushiol causing the skin reaction. Therefore, after coming in from an exposure, it is important to take off all your clothing and wash it immediately, as well as any garden equipment you may have been using.

The contact dermatitis is the result of the reaction of urushiol to your skin. The oil is found on the flowers, stem, leaves and roots of the plant and it takes very little oil to cause a reaction. Unfortunately, the oil remains active in the plant long after the plant has died.22 After the oil is absorbed and metabolized, your immune cells recognize it as a foreign substance and send out cytokines and white blood cells. During this process some of your normal tissue is damaged, resulting in the symptoms you experience.

In some cases, you may not react with the first or second exposure, leading you to believe you’re not allergic and won’t get a rash. However, increasingly people have the allergic reaction with repeated exposure. If the plants are burned and you inhale the fumes you may and experience difficulty breathing. This requires immediate emergency care. Lesions on your skin can continue to appear for up to two weeks. It may also be necessary to see your physician if:23

The reaction on your skin is severe or widespread

Your skin continues to swell over several days

Your blisters begin oozing pus

You have a fever greater than 100 F (37.8 C)

The rash doesn’t improve significantly, or get better, within a few weeks

The rash affects the area on or around your eyes, genitals or mouth

Treatment After Exposure to Poison Garden Plants

After exposure to giant hogweed, it’s important to cover your skin from exposure to the sun and get indoors where you can wash your skin with soap and cold water as soon as possible. It is important to keep it covered anytime you are outside and to stay out of the sun for three to four days to reduce your skin reaction and potential burning.24 If a reaction does occur, this area may remain very sensitive to sunlight for several years, so it may be important to keep the area covered from the sun when possible.

Following exposure to poison ivy, oak or sumac, it’s important to wash the urushiol off your skin with soap and water, using friction from a washcloth. If you do experience an outbreak, for the most part you may be able to treat it at home using natural products to reduce the swelling, itching and pain without resorting to over-the-counter medications or prescription corticosteroids. Try a combination of the following to address each of the different symptoms.

While untreated poison ivy often resolves spontaneously within two to three weeks, the following suggestions may help your body to heal faster and relieve the pain and itching resulting from the contact dermatitis.25,26,27

Itching and inflammation: Cold compresses or soaking the area in a lukewarm oatmeal bath may help reduce the inflammation and soothe your skin. Consider using oatmeal in a container accommodating the entire area or take an oatmeal bath. Filter the water as it leaves the tub or pour the fluid down the garbage disposal from a small basin used to soak an area of your body, so it doesn’t clog your drain.

Baking soda in a lukewarm bath is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology to soothe the skin and reduce the inflammation.28 The inside of a banana peel or watermelon rind may also help reduce the itch from the rash. Calamine lotion or capsaicin cream may help to reduce itching.

Dairy products, such as buttermilk or yogurt applied to your skin (unless you have a dairy allergy) may help draw the fluid from your blisters. Soak in the tub with tepid water for 20 minutes with 12 chamomile tea bags to reduce the itchiness and uncomfortable feelings on your skin. Consider brewing the tea or dark-brewed coffee and dab it on your rash with a cotton ball every few hours.

Do NOT scratch: The rash is very itchy, but you must refrain from scratching as much as possible. Bacteria under your nails may trigger a skin infection and scratching increases the damage to your skin and the potential for scarring. If the blisters from the rash do break open, leave them alone and covered to prevent infection.

Reduce the reaction: A paste of bentonite clay and water covering the area where you first notice the contact dermatitis may reduce the reaction your skin experiences, and therefore your symptoms. Bentonite is a natural clay found at your local health food store.

Speed healing: Soak a paper bag in apple cider vinegar and lay it across the rash. If you cool the apple cider vinegar first it will also help to reduce the itch as the vinegar helps to speed healing of the rash.

Cool the burning: One of the symptoms of contact dermatitis from poison ivy is a burning sensation over the rash area. The gel from an aloe vera plant may help to cool the burn from the rash in much the same way it helps soothe a sunburn.

Control Poison Garden Plants Naturally

Using a safe and effective method to kill the plants in your yard without resorting to chemicals helps reduce damage to the environment and your exposure to poison as well. No matter what method you use to remove plants, it’s essential to cover your skin with long pants, long shirt and gloves.29 The extra minutes you spend preparing may save you days of itching and burning. Duct tape your pants around your socks and your shirt around your gloves, and make sure your gloves don’t have any holes.

Giant hogweeds are tough plants and difficult to eradicate from your garden, but not impossible. Never touch the weed with your bare skin and don’t touch your gloves covered in sap with your bare skin. Natural manual or mechanical methods include cutting the roots and removing the entire plant.

Manual control does not cause immediate death and you’ll need two or three treatments each year for several years to deplete the root reserves and ultimately kill the plant. Cutting the roots is ideal for a single plant or small infestation. Plants having flowers heads should be cut before seeds have matured to prevent spreading.

Do not mow plants if they’re larger than your mower and never mow them if there’s a flower or a seed head attached to the plant. Another option is to cut the plants to the ground and cover with soil and plastic or landscape fabric with mulch on top. Check this each year to ensure seedlings do not get through and then add vegetation. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation30 has a resource page describing each of these methods in detail.

The fastest way to get rid of poison ivy, oak or sumac is to dig them up, ensuring you get at least 8 inches deep into the soil to remove as much of the root system as possible.31 Disposal of the plants you dig up is another important factor to reduce the spread of the oil. Do not compost, shred or burn the plants as this causes the oil to spread. Instead, bag the plants and roots in plastic and dispose of them in the garbage.

Once the plants are removed, cover the area with cardboard or mulch to help prevent regrowth of the plants. Watch the area around the cardboard for tiny plants growing up from roots you may have missed. If suiting up and digging up the plants isn’t your style consider a nontoxic solution of 1 cup of salt, 1 gallon of water and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.32

Mix this solution thoroughly and pour it into a sprayer. Use the stream setting on the sprayer if the plant is close to other plants you would like to save, as this formulation will kill all plant growth.

Once you’re done treating or pulling poison plants, you will want to strip off the clothes you’re wearing, being careful you don’t touch the outside of the clothes with your bare hands. You may want to have a friend remove your gloves while they are wearing disposable vinyl gloves.

Gout Pill Poses Major Risk for Your Heart

By Dr. Mercola

First identified by the Egyptians in 2640 B.C., gout was later recognized by Hippocrates, who referred to it as “the unwalkable disease.”1 The condition appeared to be associated with a lifestyle often only afforded by the affluent, and so gained the label “disease of kings.” Today, however, science has a better understanding of how gout is triggered.

The prevalence of the condition has skyrocketed in the U.K., rising 64 percent between 1997 and 2012.2 This is approximately a 4 percent rise every year, affecting nearly 1 in 40 people. The prevalence of the disease in the U.S. has also risen in the last 20 years, now affecting 8.3 million Americans.3

The reported prevalence of gout worldwide ranges from 0.1 percent to approximately 10 percent,4 with the highest reported in Taiwanese aboriginals and Maori. Gout is rarely found in the former Soviet Union regions, Guatemala, Philippines, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

If you struggle with the excruciating pain of gout, you may have been prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and drugs to address the underlying chemical cause of gout. A consumer advocacy group5 is pressuring the pharmaceutical company Takeda to remove their widely used gout medication, as recent research has demonstrated a 34 percent higher risk of death with use in those suffering from heart disease.6

Uloric Increases Risk of Dying in People With Heart Disease

Takeda is the largest pharmaceutical company in Japan and Asia7 and one of the top 15 companies in the world. They have a global presence in 70 countries, including the United States, Europe, Central America, Africa and the Middle East.8 The drug in question, Uloric (febuxostat), was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2009 for the treatment of gout and the chronic management of hyperuricemia.9

The approval followed two failed attempts in 2005 and 2006 out of concerns for increased cardiovascular risks observed in clinical trials. In response, the pharmaceutical company conducted a third trial that did not find the same cardiovascular safety risks.

This study reported the non-purine xanthine oxidase inhibitor was more potent than allopurinol taken daily. The same study reported,10 “The incidence of cardiovascular side effects was numerically higher with febuxostat than with Allopurinol, but this was not statistically significant.”

After putting the data together from all three studies, the FDA could not determine11 “with much confidence” whether the drug posed a greater risk. So, in approving it, the FDA issued a warning on the drug label and asked the company to run a larger, post-marketing study to further assess the drug’s safety.

However, the follow-up study did not confirm these results.12 In total, 6,190 patients were randomized and received either Uloric or Allopurinol. The group all had an elevated risk of cardiovascular and chronic kidney disease, as is commonly found in those suffering from gout. Half of the individuals remained in the study for at least 32 months and over half did not stay on either of the drugs.13

The rate of gout flares was nearly identical: 0.68 per patient per year taking Uloric and 0.63 per patient per year taking Allopurinol. While the rate of flare-ups was exceedingly similar, the rate of cardiovascular death was not. The researchers found the risk of death from heart disease was 34 percent higher in patients using Uloric than in those using Allopurinol. Researchers also compared the rate of death in those taking Uloric from any cause and found the risk was 22 percent higher.14

Consumer Advocacy Group Petitions FDA for Removal

Based on these results, Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, is pushing the FDA to remove Uloric from U.S. markets. The petition15 claims there is “overwhelming evidence that the serious cardiovascular harms of Uloric outweigh any purported clinical benefit.”16

In the decade since the medication was approved, Public Citizen’s petition states it17 “has been aggressively marketed and prescribed to at least hundreds of thousands of patients who are unaware of the potential dangers.” Their petition also reports Takeda posted $1.9 billion in U.S. sales from 2012 to 2017.

Physicians Incentivized to Prescribe New Medications

When new drugs are available for prescription, doctors are often eager to use them, even when research data demonstrates they may not work any better than older medications. One reason for this is because drug companies influence physicians’ prescribing habits using strong marketing tactics, such as offering free meals, merchandise or even cash in the form of consulting fees.18 Pharmaceutical companies push new drugs because they are more expensive than older drugs and far more profitable for the company.

In the case of Uloric, it is 45 times more expensive than Allopurinol with nearly identical rates of prevention. Despite early studies, confirmed by the recent featured study, the medication also leads to a greater risk of heart attack. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars to influence (what they call “educate”) and entertain doctors around the world.19

On ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs website,20 you can find out if your doctor accepted money from the drug industry. By influencing prescribing habits pharmaceutical companies have found an effective way of boosting their bottom line. Many physicians have regular contact with the drug industry and their representatives. One study21 found doctors begin interacting with pharmaceutical representatives in medical school and often continue this relationship at a rate of nearly four meetings per month.

A study22 in the New England Journal of Medicine noted “most physicians (94 percent) reported some type of relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.”

Despite the high rate of relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies, many physicians believe they’re not influenced by gifts of free food, free travel and speaking engagements, all essentially amounting to free money. They acknowledge there’s a conflict of interest, but rationalize or deny that a relationship with the pharmaceutical industry influences their decision to prescribe certain medications to their patients.23

However, while most physicians believe these gifts do not influence their decision-making, most would also rather their patients not know they receive anything from the drug industry. Not surprisingly, many patients surveyed in one study24 said they would trust their physician less if they learned the physician accepted gifts worth more than $100 from the pharmaceutical industry or went on industry-sponsored trips or sporting events.

One-quarter in the same survey25 went so far as to say they would be less likely to take a prescribed medication “if their physician had recently accepted a gift in return for listening to a pharmaceutical representative’s presentation about that drug.” While the pharmaceutical companies enjoy tempting physicians with incentives to write prescriptions for newer medications, which puts more money in their pockets, it is apparent many patients are leery of the idea that their health care may be influenced by these gifts.

What Is Gout and What Causes It?

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and inflammation in your joints and other tissues.26,27 Heat and redness may also be present in the affected joint. The disease usually attacks the joints of the big toe, but fingers, knees and hips are not spared. The symptoms of gout are associated with an excess amount of uric acid in your body, which is a normal waste product of fructose metabolism. High levels are often associated with high blood pressure, obesity and kidney disease.28

Uric acid functions as both an antioxidant and pro-oxidant once inside the cell. By lowering uric acid too much you lose the antioxidant benefits, but when you have excessive levels, it begins to cause harm. When the metabolic process controlling the amount of uric acid in your blood fails to do the job effectively, gout ensues. The symptoms of gout can be excruciating and is described as one of the more painful forms of arthritis.

Although gout symptoms usually go away within 10 days, the problem can become lifelong when attacks occur with increasing frequency and severity over time. While traditional medication treatments may work in the short term, most also carry dangerous and long-term side effects. Since the condition is often lifelong, your physician may recommend you stay on drugs for long periods of time, which can be dangerous to your health.

There are several stages the disease normally follows.29 The first is asymptomatic. While you experience no symptoms, uric acid levels are building in your blood and crystals are forming in your joint. During the acute stage, uric acid levels may spike and movement in crystals formed in the joint trigger an attack.

The inflammation and pain usually begin at night and intensify over the next 12 hours. While some never experienced a second attack, an estimated 60 percent will within the first year.30 Interval gout is the time between attacks. You experience no pain, but the condition has not been reversed. Low levels of inflammation may damage the joint. Chronic gout develops when uric acid levels remain high over a number of years and attacks become more frequent. Over time, joint damage may happen, leading to loss of mobility.

Gout Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease and More

Although evidence of the disease is concentrated in the lower joints, gout also affects the bursae in your body.31 These are slippery sacks providing support to bones and soft tissue. In particular, the olecranon bursae in your elbow and the prepatellar bursae in your knee cap are most prone to gout flare-ups. Gout attacks can also spread to tendon sheaths, the two membrane layers around the tendons32 responsible for proper body movement.

Immediate treatment for the condition is crucial in order to reduce the potential for complications. One of these is the formation of tophi, lumps of uric acid that form below the skin and surround an infected joint.33 These are painful and may result in extensive soft tissue injury, joint damage and nerve compression syndromes such as carpal tunnel.

Individuals with gout also have a higher risk for kidney and cardiovascular damage. One study discovered gout was a risk factor for coronary artery disease and vascular events in women, but not cerebrovascular disease leading to stroke.34 The risks associated with gout were lower in men. One of the key metabolic abnormalities, hyperuricemia, has a known association with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, researchers are unsure of the causality.

Although the risk from hyperuricemia is a smaller magnitude compared to other cardiovascular risk factors, it is significant and plays a role in risk associated with drugs to treat gout and the increased risk for death associated from heart attack. Some theorize the acute inflammatory response precipitating urate crystals in the joint may also be associated with endothelial dysfunction, contributing to the risk of heart disease.35

Gout is also associated with systemic inflammation, a known risk factor of heart disease, increasing markers such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein.

How to Treat Gout Naturally

In recent years the prevalence of gout has been rising in the U.S. and other developed countries as the condition is associated with the consumption of processed foods and a devotion to other unhealthy lifestyle habits. While indigenous people live hardy outdoor lives with exercise, nonprocessed and nutrient-rich foods, Westernized countries have shifted dietary preferences to highly processed foods. and many are now suffering from diseases like gout.

Taking medication long-term may increase your risk for experiencing side effects, some of which are deadly. By making a few changes to your lifestyle choices, you may be able to reduce your risk of gout or reduce your risk of another flare-up.

Carefully limit fructose

Total Video Length: 0:43:31

Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism,36 which typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion. In this interview, Dr. Richard Johnson discusses how fructose influences your risk of obesity, diabetes and other common conditions, including gout, heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fructose is different from other sugars as it’s metabolized through a pathway generating uric acid. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,37 data analysis demonstrated women who drank more than two cans of soda per day were twice as likely to develop gout, compared with women who rarely drink soda.

Drinking 12 ounces or more of orange juice has roughly the same effect. Another study38 demonstrated men who drank two or more soft drinks had an 85 percent higher risk of gout than those who drank less than one a month.

Limit alcohol consumption, especially beer

The yeast and other ingredients used to make beer is a powerful uric acid trigger.39 Beer consumption is also something to consider when watching your weight and trying to improve your health.

Eat tart cherries and strawberries in moderation

Cherries have powerful compounds like anthocyanins and bioflavonoids known to fight inflammation and help lower your uric acid levels. They are a rich source of antioxidants and may help prevent or repair damage to your body cells done by free radicals.40 Ten sweet cherries or 1 cup of sour cherries contains 4 grams of fructose, so it’s important to balance your daily fructose consumption against using berries and cherries to reduce inflammation.

Avoid soy milk

Some research demonstrated soy milk increases uric acid levels by about 10 percent.41


Exercise is not recommended while your joints are inflamed as it may cause further injury. However, once under control, exercise is a necessary adjunct and may help prevent further attacks by increasing circulation and normalizing uric acid levels. Exercise also helps to reduce depression,42 strengthen your immune system43 and improve insulin resistance,44 reversing a prediabetic condition.

Consider therapeutic herbs

Certain herbs and spices, including ginger,45 cinnamon46 and ashwagandha,47 may help relieve gout symptoms and the associated inflammatory response.

Eat potassium-rich foods

Some individuals with gout have potassium deficiency and potassium citrate preparations may help to alkalize your urine and your body to excrete uric acid.48 A proper balance inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly. If you eat a highly processed diet you may not get enough potassium. Although widely available in fruits and vegetables, here are some of the most beneficial sources.49,50

  • Swiss chard (960 mg of potassium per 1 cup)
  • Avocado (700 mg per cup)
  • Spinach (838 mg per cup)
  • Beet greens (1300 mg per cup)
  • Acorn squash (900 mg per cup)
  • White button mushrooms (555 mg in per cup)
  • Tomato (523 mg per cup)
  • Broccoli (430 mg per cup)

Encouraging the growth and health of nerve tissue may improve memory for those with cognitive decline

(Natural News) Encouraging the growth of healthy nerve tissue and improving brain neurotrophic factor signaling may enhance memory for people with signs of cognitive decline, according to researchers from the University of Eastern Finland. This could be particularly useful for people who are at risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease – which is the most…

Protesters Seeking Abolition of ICE Blockade Downtown Federal Building

By Ken Stone and Chris Stone | 2 July 2018

TIMES OF SAN DIEGO — Groups from as far away as New York, Georgia and Texas joined local immigrant-rights activists Monday at Chicano Park for a two-hour rally, followed by a march downtown where some blocked the entrance to the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building for an hour.

The building at 880 Front St. houses local ICE offices. A similar protest in Los Angeles resulted in a handful of arrests, but no arrests were reported in San Diego.

(However, the unfurling of a banner atop the nearby Westin Hotel led to 10 arrests, organizers said. The sign said* “Free Our Families Now!”)

At Chicano Park, demonstrators were led in a song and chant: “This is for the people who are locked inside — together we will abolish ICE.”

Audrey Sasson, executive director of New York-based Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, said 20 members of her group came out to support the local protest organized by Mijente[…]

The post Protesters Seeking Abolition of ICE Blockade Downtown Federal Building appeared first on The New Nationalist.